22 January 2018 - There is a hunger strike going on right now at the Allred Ad-Seg Unit, which is located in Iowa Park, Texas. A lot of prisoners are on hunger strike in protest of the cruel and inhumane conditions which have been allowed to be visited upon the prisoners in the Ad-Seg Unit. The key issues are:
Lack of opportunities to go to outside recreation.
Cold food being served every meal at the Ad-Seg/High Security Unit.
There are a lot of similar problems here at Eastham Ad-Seg and some
of the common denominators which allow these problems to continue are:
Serious Shortages of Staff all over TDCJ
Lack of funds to make repairs on anything
Deliberate Indifference and Abuse by uncaring Staff at Allred!
The 85th Texas Legislature which convened in 2017 approved a massive
multi-million dollar cut to the budget of the Texas Department of
Criminal INJustice. I believe the amount was close to $212 million. There have been numerous unintended consequences as a result of
these cutbacks — staff shortages is just one. We have also seen an
inordinate amount of prisoner deaths as a result of subpar medical care
given by employees of the University of Texas Medical Branch whose
headquarters is in Galveston, Texas.
One issue that I'd like to bring to your attention is that prisoners who
are housed in Ad-Seg (all over Ad-Seg, but especially at the Allred
Unit) are more vulnerable to abuse by TDCJ prison employees because they
are more isolated from the general public, the media and their
FAMILIES!! Hunger Striking is the last ditch effort to have their
grievances heard. This is a cry for HELP! We cannot ignore them.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The Texas grievance
process is abysmal, and in most (if not all) facilities, the
instructions on how to use the grievance process are not even made
available to prisoners. We saw no other choice but to compile this
material and distribute it ourselves. So when this correspondent says
"hunger striking is the last ditch effort," we can attest to the lack of
progress using official channels. Eventually it gets to a point where
humyns can't take the abuse and neglect anymore, and the prison admin is
only frustrating their attempts to go the "proper" route. Hunger
striking is one of the only forms of protest left. We are trying to work
toward a society where people don't need to starve themselves to be
allowed outdoors, and asserting ourselves, such as in this hunger
strike, is one step toward that new society.
I received the book that you sent me and the ULK newsletter. I agree with the line that all sex is rape and that the majority of the white working class in the United States is not a revolutionary force due to the fact that they have a material interest in maintaining imperialism on a global stage.
I been doing organizing and educational work. I been helping showing others how to fill out grievance forms. I end up getting 100% participation from all cadres on lock up down at Jessup Correctional Institution. As you can see my address changed. They moved me to Maximum security prison North Branch, it is the most secure prison at Maryland. Due to my organizing and assault on COs at Jessup they raised my security level.
We had to move the struggle to the physical level because they was not respecting our grievance forms; they was ripping them up. When the grievance process fails the physical level is the next step. I am not a focoist. But when oppressive tactics are used by the imperialist blood suckers of the poor then violence is the next step.
I don't think that the drug problem is getting any better. A lot of brothers are getting high off of the medication these nurses are giving out which is nothing but another form of social control that is used by the imperialist system. Everything under this capitalist system is abnormal. The people will only begin to see the value of people through the transitional stage of socialism. Individualism is what majority of citizens value. We as communists must continue to struggle and fight to win the people over.
I have political debates all the time with capitalists. They don't see how the means of production should be collectively owned by the people. I been raising the class consciousness elucidating to comrades how the Democratic party and the Republican party will not exist without perpetuating social conflict amongst the people and how racism and classism is inextricably built into the capitalist system.
One thing about a lot of women is they don't like the inequality and sexism but when you ask them do they believe we should abolish the current system a lot of them will say no! A lot of women are willing to put up with inequality and sexism because they have a material interest. I agree with this line that sexism will always exist under this capitalist system even during the transitional stage which is socialism. Classism is the worst social ill that we have in our society, to me classism is a disease it takes a long time to cure. I am a blackman from a low income community. A lot of women I talk to are ignorant to communism. They have a bad perception about it due to imperialist propaganda. I would like to learn more about Mao Zedong. Please send some knowledge about Mao Zedong.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have a lot of unity with this writer about the nature of class, nation and gender oppression in the imperialist world today. But we see national oppression as the main problem today, not class. This is because imperialism is built on a system of nations oppressing other nations. That oppression is economically exploitative, and in many ways parallels class oppression. But recent history has shown revolutionary nationalism to be the form that the most successful anti-imperialist organizing has taken. We will have the best success against imperialism by pushing national liberation struggles. And these in turn will push forward the class struggle.
We also want to comment on the question of organizing strategies becoming physical. Change can't occur without action that has consequences. And ultimately an oppressor that uses force to control must face a response of force before that oppression can be ended. But as Sun Tzu taught in the Art of War, the enemy must be truly helpless to be defeated. Comrades must be careful to plan actions so that they don't just result in greater repression. Leaders getting locked up in isolation doesn't advance the movement. Everyone needs to evaluate their own conditions to determine what's the best organizing approach and what's necessary for self-defense. And self-defense should not be confused with revolution.
This is a response to the recent article on Prop. 57 organizing. While I understand how this could be a tool for comrades to organize with, at the same time there are plenty of programs here at Folsom that are doing the whole time reduction program. For example, there are a few of my homies that have gotten 1/4 of their time knocked off after GED/College degree. And they are not white, rich, or snitches as the headline suggests.
Now one thing that we can definitely push is for youth offenders to be able to fit the criteria of Prop. 57. Because that is definitely something us under SB260-261 do not fit into. Not to say that the carrot of reform is something we bit into with high hopes, but it can most definitely be something to put into motion.
I just feel the headline stating that only snitches and privileged are getting good time in New Folsom EOP/GP could be a turn off. It will move/push people in the wrong direction. We can use this, let's just not label solid comrades snitches on paper when organizing.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We thank this comrade for this criticism and correction. While we did print a couple responses from USW comrades in ULK 60 citing instances of good time used to favor certain prisoners, we should not paint with such a broad brush to imply that anyone getting good time is in that boat.
It does seem that access to info on Prop. 57 is also imbalanced. As we are still getting people asking for information, while others say the state is on top of it. Strategically, we seek to build Serve the People programs where we can provide for the needs of the masses better than the state. Prop. 57 is not a place we can do a better job than what the state is doing. Providing books that serve the interests of oppressed nations, for example, is. We agree with this comrade that we cannot hope for reformism to change things, but we can fight for winnable battles that help us move in the direction of revolutionary change.
Addendum: The politics of Prop. 57 also overlap with the focus of this issue of Under Lock & Key. The CDCR tried to exclude anyone convicted of a crime that required being registered as a sex offender from Prop. 57 benefits. But only certain crimes in the sex offender classification are also classified as violent felonies in the California Penal Code. In February, in a suit brought by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, a judge ruled that the CDCR was overstretching the law, and that limits on Prop. 57 must be applied only to those convictions deemed "violent" in the California Code. (16 February 2018, Seth Augenstein, California's Prop 57 Sex Offender Release Regs Are Void, Court Rules)
This is my end-of-year report on our MIM Grievance Campaign. We did one on the "unlocks" here, and we're currently working on the issue of showers. Due to the California drought they claim that we are still in a drought and therefore can only shower on Tuesday and Thursday. Even then there is no hot water so we are showering in ICE cold water. This is in spite of the fact that we are in a medical facility and most of us are older prisoners.
The temp has dropped to 34 degrees in the morning and we have been in these conditions now for over a month. Enclosed please find the grievances.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Comrades at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility have been pursuing these issue through 602 appeals forms and subsequent appeals. After receiving a response of "partially granted" there was no actual change in conditions and they began utilizing the grievance petition for California. They have done a good job documenting the process, citing case law of Armstrong vs. Brown and the 8th and 14th Amendment.
Comrades in California and other states can write in to get a copy of a grievance petition to use as an organizing tool to bring people together around conditions that are not being addressed at your prison.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation depicts the struggles
(if they can be called that) of Clark Griswold. It is Clark's quest to
have the perfect Christmas for eir family: spouse Ellen and children
Audrey and Rusty. Most of the first act of the film is dedicated to
comedically exaggerated petty-bourgeois scenarios in this vein: getting
the right tree, putting up the Christmas lights, shopping for gifts, and
trying to keep the peace among family members (much extended family
arrives in the form of both sets of grandparents, Ellen's cigar-smoking
uncle Lewis and senile aunt Bethany, and Clark's redneck cousin Eddie,
accompanied by eir spouse, children and dog). Christmas books and movies
have long been vessels for anti-capitalist messages, even if they are
tainted by idealism and economism: from Ebenezer Scrooge being
frightened into giving concessions to the proletariat in A Christmas
Carol(1), to the anti-imperialist solidarity of Whoville in How
the Grinch Stole Christmas(2), to the anti-militarism parable of
A Christmas Story(3). And a superficial "reading" of Christmas
Vacation suggests that it may not only follow the same paradigm but
even exceed these works and act as an inspiration for communist
revolution (spoiler alert: the climax of the movie involves the forceful
kidnapping of a member of the bourgeoisie). However, a deeper analysis
reveals that, despite occasional flashes of progressiveness and a candid depiction of the labor aristocracy, the film
does not provide useful guidance for revolution.
Throughout the movie, some potshots are taken at the bourgeoisie, but
nothing too substantial. Clark's next-door yuppie neighbors are depicted
as pretentious snobs, while eir boss is gruff and impersonal. But these
attacks on the bourgeoisie are based on persynal mannerisms, not
economic grounds. Clark is clearly a privileged member of the labor
aristocracy. Ellen doesn't seem to work, and Clark makes enough to
afford a couple of cars and a nice house, which ey bedecks with an
over-the-top lighting display. Clark does not even seem to work hard to
enjoy these things. In the whole movie, ey is shown at work in only
three brief scenes. And in none of those scenes is ey actually engaged
in labor. In the first, ey is chatting at the watercooler. In the
second, ey drops off a gift and unsuccessfully attempts to ingratiate
emself with eir boss. In the third, ey is sitting in eir office, looking
over some plans for a persynal swimming pool. So Clark does not appear
to work that hard, but ey does mention several innovations ey has made
for eir company, which seems to be a manufacturer of chemical food
additives although no manufacturing is ever shown onscreen.
Could Clark's mental labor as a chemist still be exploited by the
bourgeoisie proper? The answer appears to be no: Clark is planning to
pay for eir swimming pool with eir end-of-year bonus. Said bonus
represents compensation for the value ey has produced in excess of eir
salary and thus precludes em from being truly proletarian. Indeed, eir
entire compensation is likely funded by the manufacture of chemicals ey
has designed, presumably by Third World workers. Thus, Clark occupies
the classic position of a labor aristocrat: someone who may be slightly
exploited by the bourgeoisie, but who ultimately receives compensation
in excess of the value of eir labor, as a beneficiary of imperialist
superexploitation of the Third World proletariat.
As the film progresses, the minor and mainly apolitical subplots fade to
the periphery (after some technical difficulties, Clark's light show
wows the family and is never mentioned again), and a political thread
assumes prominence. As it turns out, Clark is really counting on eir
Christmas bonus. In order to expedite the construction of eir pool,
Clark has put down a deposit and written a check that eir bank account
can't cover. Clark is confident that eir performance will earn em a
sizable bonus, but that confidence begins to wane as the days go by
without word from the company. Finally, a messenger arrives on Christmas
Eve with an envelope. Before opening it, Clark, apparently on the knife
edge between luxury and financial ruin, expresses both eir anxiety
regarding eir solvency and eir hope that the check will be large enough
to not only cover the cost of the pool but also airfare to fly over all
the extended family present (ten people!) to enjoy it when it is built.
To much fanfare, Clark opens the envelope and finds that, to eir dismay,
it only contains a subscription to the Jelly-of-the-Month club, a gift
of nugatory value. Enraged, Clark launches into a tirade denouncing eir
boss's perfidy and angrily expresses eir desire to see eir boss tied up.
Taking Clark's words literally, Eddie slips out, locates Clark's boss
(conveniently, Clark mentioned the neighborhood ey lives in during eir
lengthy monologue), and kidnaps em. Bound, gagged, and festooned with a
large ribbon, ey is Eddie's last-minute Christmas gift to Clark.
There are several issues with this scenario.
First, the stakes are very low. The only thing really at risk is Clark's
bonus. Perhaps ey will have to live without the pool for another year.
Perhaps ey will be charged by the bank for a bounced check. Perhaps ey
will even have to forfeit the deposit ey made. But if Clark is low on
cash, that is a problem of eir own making. We are talking about a persyn
who probably spent over three grand just on the electricity for eir
250,000-bulb Christmas light display.(4) If Clark misses out on eir
bonus, what is the big deal? Ey might have to pawn eir lights and forgo
the spectacular light show next year. Eir family might even have to take
fewer of their legendary vacations. But it seems unlikely that they are
in danger of going hungry or having to sell the house or even the car.
Perhaps the aspect of Clark's misfortune which ey most keenly feels —
and which is most relevant to Amerikan audiences — is what it
represents. Denied an explicit share in eir surplus value (ignoring, of
course, that ey still receives a salary of international superprofits),
Clark is confronted by the prospect of eir potential proletarianization.
Scarier than any Ghost of Christmas, the spectre of economic forces
strikes fear into eir heart. Rather than act constructively, however,
Clark, true to eir petty-bourgeois nature, reacts by pointlessly venting
eir rage at eir family. Ey also attempts to ignore the problem by
frantically following family Christmas rituals (providing time in the
narrative for Eddie to complete eir mission with eir absence unnoticed).
The proletariat of the 19th Century may have had to turn to the hard
drug of religion — "the opiate of the masses" (5) — to cope with its
actual oppression, but in Clark's case, nothing so strong is required,
just what might be called the eggnog of the masses: a reading of "The
Night Before Christmas" and also a Tylenol, washed down by a few cups of
So, the stakes are low, but this movie is a comedy. Perhaps the events
depicted can be seen as a microcosm of the proletarian struggle. Would a
mere amplification of things produce a progressive view of international
economic exploitation? Sadly, no. Clark is a member of the labor
aristocracy, with an imperialist, petty-bourgeois, even bourgeois
mindset. Even eir most innocuous actions are tainted with oppression.
Eir actions throughout the film appear to be a re-enactment of
Amerikkkan history and atrocities, down to a roughly chronological
progression from European colonization to Amerikkkan imperialism in the
Pacific. The movie opens with Clark driving eir family to the woods to
chop down a Christmas tree instead of buying one, a handy metaphor for
Amerikkkan theft of the land from Indigenous peoples and destruction of
the environment, as well as a reminder that it was the timber of North
America that originally drew the English colonizers. Next, Clark moves
on to gender oppression. In "The Communist Manifesto", Marx and Engels
wrote that the "bourgeois, not content with having the wives and
daughters of their proletarians at their disposal... take the greatest
pleasure in seducing each other's wives."(6) In multiple ways, Clark
displays these bourgeois ambitions, although ey may be considered only
petty-bourgeois due to eir lack of success. First, while shopping for
Christmas gifts, ey flirts and leers at the female salesclerk. Later, ey
has a daydream about eir pool in which the the vision of eir family
playing is replaced by a fantasy of seduction by a womyn who the
soundtrack implies to be an Indigenous Hawaii'an, thus tying together
the gender and national strands of oppression.
Finally, there is Eddie. Despite eir simple appearance, Eddie is the
fulcrum of one of the biggest paradoxes in the film: is ey a force for
revolution or reaction? An uninvited guest, ey seems to be nothing but a
source of problems, but ey ultimately saves the day with eir actions
against the bourgeoisie. Is ey proletarian? Hardly. It is revealed that
ey has been out of work for seven years. Aha! Perhaps ey is part of the
lumpenproletariat. Even if that were true, ey would be part of the First World lumpen and receive a significant benefit from eir position as a resident of the imperialist u.$. Regardless, the facts reveal that Eddie is no
lumpenproletariat hero. First, the reason for eir protracted
unemployment is that ey is holding out for a management position — a
classic petty-bourgeois aspiration. Furthermore, ey mentions that,
despite having had to trade the home for an RV, ey still retains
ownership in a plot of land, a farm and some livestock. Ey is still petty boourgeois, then; one who, despite reduced circumstances, holds on
to a vestige of the family estate. In addition, another troubling aspect
of Eddie's past is offhandedly revealed. Ey mentions that ey has a plate
in eir head, provided by the VA. Therefore, ey is not just a passive
recipient but an active participant in imperialism: one who enjoys the
privilege of free healthcare in exchange for eir role in aiding Amerikan
war crimes. Despite this, ey does fleetingly provide the film with its
only sliver of appreciation for the destruction wrought by capitalism
and u.$. imperialism. While shopping, Eddie asks Clark "Your company
kill off all them people in India not long ago?", referring to the
Bhopal chemical disaster that killed an estimated 16,000 people and
injured as many as half a million more (7,8). "No, we missed out on that
one," Clark dryly responds, and the conversation moves on, presumably
because Eddie doesn't care. Meanwhile, Eddie causes a chemical disaster
of eir own; after emptying the septic tank of eir RV into the sewer,
subsequent scenes feature interstitial shots of a menacing green smoke
rising from the storm drain.
But let's get back to the action. When we left the
Griswolds, Eddie had just marched Clark's boss into the living room.
Ungagged, eir first instinct is to fire Clark and call the cops. But
after all of 30 seconds, ey has a change of heart. Apparently, all that
was needed was a brief speech by Clark with an addendum by Rusty that
withholding bonuses "sucks" to convince Clark's boss to drop all
charges, reinstate the bonuses, and add another 20% to Clark's bonus.
Clark is so overwhelmed that ey faints.
OK, seriously? If a 20% raise was all that was needed to address the
iniquities of capitalism, MIM(Prisons) would disband and recommend you
vote for Sanders instead. Actually, even that would be too radical.
Fight for 15? More like fight for $8.70. Also, some aspects of Clark's
boss's repentance ring false: ey calls Clark "Carl" and refers to em as
the "little people". Has Clark received a permanent gain or is eir
victory a tenuous and insecure one? We bring this up not to suggest
that Amerikan labor aristocrats are truly oppressed, just to point out
the vanity and futility of imperialism: despite afflicting so much
suffering across the Third World, it has failed to completely resolve
the contradiction between workers and bourgeoisie in Amerika.
Basking in their newfound affluence, however petty it may be, the
Griswolds are rudely interrupted by the arrival of the pigs. Usually not
motivated to do much work, the kidnapping of a member of the bourgeoisie
has kicked the pig machine into high gear, and SWAT teams storm the
Griswold home from every conceivable entrance, including several pigs
rappelling through the windows. (Some pigs even kick down the door of
the neighboring house; although this scene was probably meant to provide
some comic relief and comeuppance to the yuppies, it also wouldn't be
the first or the last time that property and lives were endangered by
pigs getting the address wrong). The deference of the pigs to the
bourgeoisie is further underscored by the arrival of the wife of Clark's
boss in a car driven by a persyn whose heavily decorated dress uniform
marks em as the chief of police. This persyn would also be identified by
most viewers, on the basis of eir skin color, as "black". In fact, ey is
the only non-white character with a speaking role in the entire movie.
This detail is significant on several levels. First, the fact that the
Griswolds live in Chicago, a city with substantial New Afrikan and
[email protected] populations, but appear to interact exclusively with white
Amerikkkans represents an likely-inadvertent, but nonetheless true-to-life, depiction of
the highly segregated nature of housing and employment in Chicago.
Second, we must wonder: what was the motivation of the moviemakers in
casting a New Afrikan in this role? It could be mere tokenism, giving
the sole New Afrikan actor a role that is effectively a chauffeur. Or
perhaps they were being ironic, casting a New Afrikan as the head of the
pigs, the institution that has perhaps committed the most violence
against New Afrikans in recent decades. One shudders to think that
perhaps they thought they were being progressive by casting a New
Afrikan in a strategically Euro-Amerikan role and creating the illusion
of an egalitarian, racially-integrated police force. The true
contradiction in Amerikkka is that of nation, not race. Hence, a persyn
who might be labeled as non-white can still, in some cases, manage to
join the Amerikkkan nation and rise to the role of head pig (or even, as
in the case of Barack Obama, war-criminal-in-chief); the situation in
this film, then, seems prescient of the modern-day prominence of sheriff
Clarke of Milwaukee, another midwestern town. Perhaps a Christmas comedy
is the wrong place to look for an inspiring depiction of New Afrikan
revolutionaries, but it is still unfortunate that all we have been given
is a bootlicker to the bourgeoisie.
Many people have been killed by trigger-happy pigs, and a kidnapping on
Christmas Eve seems like the kind of high-stakes situation that would
bring in the pigs with guns blazing, but the predicament faced by the
Griswolds is resolved with miraculous ease. After Clark's boss explains
the situation, everybody relaxes, although Clark's boss is still
admonished all-around for his idea of cutting Christmas bonuses (the
head pig even says that ey'd like to beat em with a rubber hose — a
seemingly progressive action that, due to its focus on individual
retribution, is actually little more than adventurism; and even that
idea comes across as an outburst that is never fulfilled). What about
Eddie's toxic waste spill? An errant match tossed by Uncle Lewis ignites
it, but the resulting explosion only serves to launch a plastic Santa
and reindeer into the air, creating the perfect Christmas tableau in the
sky and prompting a confused Aunt Bethany to spontaneously break into a
rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner". As the Griswolds and the pigs
dance to Christmas songs in the house, Clark stands on the lawn and
basks in eir achievement. "I did it," ey says. The perfect family
But for us communists, things are far from perfect. Any
potentially lumpen characters in the movie, who may have been teetering
between revolution and reaction, have, by the film's end, fallen firmly
on the side of reaction. Everyone else — the labor aristocrats, the
bourgeoisie, pigs — was already there. This movie is best enjoyed not as a blueprint for revolution but as a satire of the Amerikan way of life. It offers hints of Amerikan brutality both domestically and abroad, as well as a depiction of the manner by which government institutions become tools of the bourgeoisie. But most of all, it exposes the reactionary nature of the labor aristocracy: the decadence of its "workers", the hypocrisy of its "morals" and the futility of any "revolutionary" action among the beneficiaries of imperialism.
The brief flicker of revolutionary action that does occur is quickly
extinguished due to its limited scope and unsystematic nature. As Lenin
once said, "When the workers of a single factory or of a single branch
of industry engage in struggle against their employer or employers, is
this class struggle? No, this is only a weak embryo of it" (9). How
ironic then, that on the (probably mythical) day of Jesus' birth, the
embryo of revolution was delivered as a stillbirth. Let us look forward,
then, to December 26: the (real) day of Mao's birth. Beyond eir persynal
achievements, ey stands as a symbol of real revolution. A genuine
proletarian revolution, not a phony one led by Amerikkkan "workers",
promises real solutions to the real problems facing the world: an end to
the insatiable exploitation by capitalists, an end to the callous
destruction of the environment, an end to the violence perpetrated every
day by pigs. When that day comes, the workers of the world will unite
and we can sing the "Internationale" together.
Sadly, we as prisoners, in many instances take the judgment of our enemy, the injustice system, as truth even when knowing first-hand their ability to get a conviction has little to do with facts or justice. This knowledge should be enough that we not begin to persecute or torment any member of the lumpen class based on convictions and charges that derive in these kangaroo courts. The contradiction is that actual violations of this nature by any member of the lumpen class is a violation against us all. I have served justice on a street level against such violators. Yet I am in prison due to a sex crime conviction that was racially motivated. Even when the alleged victim was impeached for lying and video was shown proving my innocence a jury of 12 whites found me guilty of the crime. I have continued to defend my innocence, lead many groups in prison and stayed politically engaged. Yet I have to deal with the stigma that is created by this label. I continue to use my voice to awaken members of the lumpen class about the poisonous beast of capitalism and educate them about the benefits of socialism.
In the book Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver has a chapter called "The Allegory of the Black Eunuchs," which I would advise all revolutionaries to read. Also to all my New Afrikan comrades our politics are clear on this issue as it was dealt with in the Ten Point Program produced by our revolutionary forefathers, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Point #8 of the program states, "WE want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails."
Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and beyond, commented in the August 2016 issue of Ebony Magazine on p. 109:
"To many people, including Blacks and radical activists at the time, the call for releasing all prisoners was the most controversial tenet of the Black Panther Party's original Ten-Point Program. After all, how could we justify releasing criminals into society?
"For the Panthers, however, it was impossible to separate 'criminals' from the circumstances that criminalized them. Racist police forces, unjust laws, unfair trials and biased juries all made it impossible to determine whether someone was truly guilty or simply the victim of a rigged system. Even those who were guilty, they argued, had their hands forced because of the oppressive conditions of capitalism and White supremacy. Essentially, the question was, How can you blame someone for becoming a thief when he or she doesn't have a fair shot at an honest job with honest pay?"
But the Panther Program did not end with releasing New Afrikan prisoners. Point #9 continues to explain:
"We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being, tried by all-White juries that have no understanding of the 'average reasoning man' of the Black community."
Here Huey P. Newton was referring to the tenets of the United $tates Constitution to justify a move towards building independent institutions of the oppressed. Newton was always conscious to not get ahead of the masses, but to lead them towards viable solutions. And the Black Panther Party leadership knew that getting justice for New Afrikans in the United $tates was not viable; that only the New Afrikan nation could apply a just morality in judging the actions of its people in the context of being an internal semi-colony of the United $tates white power structure.
So my conclusion to the sex offender debate for issue 61 of Under Lock & Key is that at no point should we take our enemies word or level of injustice over members of the lumpen class, when those lumpen maintain their innocence. Yet we should stand against these violations if they are knowable facts. We should get to know each member of the oppressed lumpen on a personal and individual basis, while understanding the history of the white supremacist criminal injustice system of labeling political prisoners with these kinds of charges in their effort to get them assassinated by other members of the oppressed. Just think of how we lost big Yogi a year or so ago.
U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in the United $tates free speech is reserved for those with money and power.
In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a
battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.
Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.
We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.
The Chair of the publications review committee for the VA DOC, Melissa Welch, sent MIM(Prisons) a letter denying ULK 56, and then the next month the same letter denying ULK 57. Both letters cite the same reasons:
"D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.
"F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."
Last issue of ULK we reported on the censorship of ULK57 in Pennsylvania. After sending a protest letter to appeal the decision we had a rare victory! From the Policy Office, PA
Department of Corrections:
"This is to notify you that the publication in issue does not violate Department Policy. As such, the decision of the correctional institution is reversed and the inmates in the PA Department of
Corrections will be permitted to receive the publication. The correctional institutions will be notified by the Policy Office of the decision."
If anyone in PA hasn't received ULK 57 yet, let us know and we will send another copy to you.
Pennsylvania SCI-Camp Hill
From a prisoner we were forwarded a notice of incoming publication denial for ULK 57: "create a danger within the context of the correctional facility" p.21, 24
The description quotes sentences that can't be found within ULK including: "PREA system strip searches for harassment in PA", "Black prisoners deserve to retaliate against predominantly white ran system", and "This is a excellent reminder of PA importance of fighting." They are making up text as reasons for censorship in Pennsylvania.
Texas - Bill Clemens Unit
A prisoner forwarded us a denial for ULK 57 "Page 11 contains information that could cause a prison disruption."
In March 2017, our study pack Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party was censored for
"Reason C. Page 9 contains information that could cause a strike or prison disruption."
This adds to the growing list of our most important literature that is banned in the state forever, including Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat and [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlan. We need someone with legal expertise to challenge Texas's policies that allow for publications to be banned forever in the state.
Florida - Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
A prisoner forwarded us a notice of impoundment of ULK 57. The reason cited: "Pages 1, 11, 14, 15, & 17 advocates insurgency and disruption of institutional operations."
We appealed this denial and got a response from Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC, reiterating the reasons for impoundment and upholding the denial: "In their regularly scheduled meeting of August 30, 2017 the Literature Review Committee of the Florida Department of Corrections upheld the institution's impoundment and rejected the publication for the grounds stated. This means that issue will not be allowed into our correctional institutions."
Following up on a case printed in ULK 57 regarding Florida's denial of the MIM(Prisons) censorship pack, for no specific reasons. We received a response to our appeal of this case from the same Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator, named above.
"From the number of the FDC form you reference and your description of what happened it is apparent the institutional mailroom did not handle the Censorship Guide as a publication, but instead handled it in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code rule for routine mail. As such, the item was not impounded, was not posted to the list of impounded publications for any other institution to see, was not referred to the Literature Review Committee for review, and thus does not appear on the list of rejected publications. That means that if the exact same Guide came to any other inmate mailroom staff would look at it afresh. In theory, it could even be allowed into the institution. ...
"The Florida Administrative Code makes no provision for further review."
Florida - Florida State Prison
ULK 58 was rejected for what appears to just be a list of titles of articles, some not even complete:
PGS 6 Liberation schools to organize through the wall (talk about the hunger strikes)
PGS 8 DPRK; White Supremacy's Global Agenda
PGS 11 Case law to help those facing
PGS 19 White and gaining consciousness
Florida - Jefferson Correctional Institution
Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles was denied to a prisoner at Jefferson Correctional Institution because "inmate has received a second copy of the same edition of this publication violating chapter 33-501.401 (16)(b) and procedure 501.401(7)(d)."
Washington state - Coyote Ridge CC
The invitation to and first assignment for our correspondence introductory study group was rejected by Mailroom Employee April Long for the following reasons:
"Advocates violence against others and/or the overthrow of authority.
Advocates that a protected class or group of individuals is inferior and/or makes such class/group the object of ridicule and/or scorn, and may reasonably be thought to precipitate a violent confrontation between the recipient and a member(s) of the target group. Rejected incoming mailing from MIM. Mailing contains working that appears to be referring to law enforcement as 'pigs' it appears to be ridiculing and scornful. There is also a section in mailing labeled solutions that calls prisoners to take actions against prison industries and gives specific ideas/suggestions. Nothing to forward onto offender."
A recent study assignment for the University of Maoist Thought was also censored at Coyote Ridge. MIM(Prisons) has not yet been informed of this censorship incident by the facility. The study group participant wrote and told us it was censored for being a "copy of copyrighted material."
The material in question was published in 1972 in the People's Republic of China. Not only did that government actively work against capitalist concepts such as copyright, we believe that even by the United $tates' own standards this book should not be subject to censorship.
Clallam Bay CF rejected ULK 58 because: "Newsletter is being rejected as it talks about September 9 events including offenders commencing a hunger strike until equal treatment, retaliation and legal rights issues are resolved."
Coyote Ridge CC rejected ULK 58 for a different set of reasons: "Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy and/or local facet/rules. Contains correspondence, information, or other items relating to another offender(s) without prior approval from the Superintendent/designee: or attempts or conveys unauthorized offender to offender correspondence."
We received the following report from a Canadian prisoner who had sent us some stamps to pay for a few issues of ULK to be mailed to Canada.
"A few months ago, on July 18, I received notice from the V&C department informing that five issues of ULK had arrived here for me. The notice also explained that the issues had been seized because of a Commissioner's Directive (764.6) which states that '[t]he institutional head may prohibit entry into the institution of material that portrays excessive violence and aggression, or prison violence; or if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the material would incite inmates to commit similar acts.' I grieved the seizure, among other things, citing the sections on page 2 of ULK, which 'explicitly discourage[s prisoners] from engaging in any violence or illegal acts,' and citing too the UFPP statement of peace on page 3, which speaks of the organizational aim to end needless conflicts and violence within prisons.
"Well, I can now report that my grievance was upheld and that all copies of ULK were released to me, but not without the censorship of drawings deemed to portray or promote the kind of violence described in the above-cited Commissioner's Directive. It's a decision I can live with for now."
We got reports from two people that the blanket ban on ULK in Missouri was removed and ULK 58 was received. If you're in Missouri and still not getting your ULK, be sure to let us know.
Michigan - Richard A Handlon CF
ULK 58 was rejected because "Articles in Under Lock & Key contains information about criminal activity that might entice criminal activity within the prison facility - threat to security."
Illinois - Stateville CC
ULK 58 was rejected because: "The publication appears to: Advocate or encourage violence, hatred, or group disruption or it poses an intolerable risk of violence or disruption. Be otherwise detrimental to security, good order, rehabilitation, or discipline or it might facilitate criminal activity or be detrimental to mental health. Detrimental to safety and security of the facility. Disrupts order. Promotes organization and leadership."
Many prisoners have utilized the petition demanding their grievances be heard. The Commissioner simply forwarded the grievances to the person in charge of the grievance system, who wrote a letter to each prisoner that filed a petition. The letter informed the prisoners that they should file a grievance about the issue if they had a problem with the grievance system. Absurd, but true.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We responded to this comrade asking what they think should be done next to resolve this problem. Clearly, writing grievances isn't working. Writing to the Commissioner gets no results. Lawsuits can give some relief, but often only temporarily. And of course lawsuit victories come with the problem of enforcement.
Ultimately we believe we need to completely change our society in order to fix this problem. We try to contribute to lawsuits, but even more importantly we contribute to education and institution-building, so when our lawsuits fail we can still make progress in our struggle to a more just humynity.
The enclosed letter is submitted to you for follow-up to "Insulin Indifference Disables Prisoners".(ULK 57, p. 6) The publishing editor of that letter omitted the solution to that problem. Does anyone have time to comment on if mine compares to the grievance guides presently available? Or is my method in conflict with the advice in other manuals? I want to know how I compare with other grievance methods.
The problem in the article is a policy of no lunchtime fingersticks/insulin injections. The prison serves lunch so late it is outside the timeframe that a pre-breakfast shot of 70/30 insulin works for some diabetics within the prison.
For diabetics having this problem, immediately following lunch they may have symptoms of extremely elevated glucose, like hunger (even though they have just ate lunch), blurry vision, dry mouth, thirst, pins and needles (like tingling nerve pain), and frequent urination. In addition, at next fingerstick before supper their glucose may be extremely elevated.
"Extremely elevated" blood sugar is dangerous because it "can cause life threatening changes in the body within a matter of hours. An extremely high blood sugar level... And I am talking at least 300... can cause an imbalance in the delicate acid-based structure in the tissues of the body."(1)
So if you take 70/30 insulin (and your prison doesn't do lunchtime fingersticks/insulin injections) and you have the above symptoms, and/or if your suppertime glucose level is still over 300 several hours after lunch, then you should first try a medical request. Then, if necessary, a grievance explaining the problem. If filing a grievance (the formal step), then include the illustration of how extremely elevated glucose harms the body, located in the last paragraph of "Insulin Indifference Disables Prisoners." This way the warden, or other prison officials signing off on the grievance, cannot claim they were unaware of the damage that was occurring due to that they "are not medical professionals." (This is a popular excuse used by non-medical prison officials to escape liability in prison medical care cases.)
Two solutions to the problem are: 1. For the prison to start serving lunch earlier, or 2. For the prison to start providing lunchtime fingerstick/insulin injection, at which time you should receive a small dose of regular-type insulin, also called "mealtime insulin." Immediately following these two suggested solutions on your grievance, you should write "To do neither would constitute deliberate indifference."
In your medical request or your grievance, you should also explain that staff should periodically adjust your new lunchtime dose of regular insulin to determine exactly what amount is required to lower the residual glucose from lunch so it is at least somewhere between 200 - 300 by suppertime fingerstick. This will keep your glucose out of the danger zone between lunch and supper.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The problem with timing insulin injections with mealtimes is not lack of education or medical expertise. The problem of indifference is built in to the capitalist, white supremacist power structure. Imprisoned people, and oppressed nations in general, are not thought to need or deserve to have access to proper medical care. Prisoners' right to their eyesight or to keep all their toes is of absolutely no concern to the imperialist power structure. In fact, from the imperialist system's perspective it is probably better for prisoners and oppressed nation people to continue suffering, and be kept busy filing grievances. That way it's even harder to fight back.
We're glad this author wrote in with more details on what people could do to resolve the individual problems they are having with administration's approach to diabetes management. If we're talking about real remedies, though, and about fixing a problem, we need to acknowledge that capitalism and national oppression are the real cause of extremely elevated glucose levels. We need to struggle on our individual problems so we can be stronger for our revolutionary work. Don't lose sight of the bigger picture!
On 26 October 2017, U.$. President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The declaration should lead to more federal funding for grants to combat opioid abuse.(1) As we explain below, this epidemic disproportionately affects euro-Amerikans. Trump linked his campaign to build a wall along the current Mexican border to the battle against this epidemic, despite the fact that prescription painkillers are at the root of it. This is consistent with the Amerikan government's solution for drug problems created by imperialism. For the crack epidemic of the 1980s Amerika responded with mass incarceration of New Afrikan men as the solution. As opioid addiction continues a steady rise, Trump offers further militarization of the border.
Opioids have been used by humyns for thousands of years both medicinally and recreationally, with many periods of epidemic addiction. Use began with opium from poppies. Morphine was isolated in 1806. By the early 1900s heroin was promoted as a cure for morphine addiction in the United $tates, before being made illegal in 1924. There was a lull in heroin use during the 1980s, when cocaine and crack overshadowed it. Various prescription pain killers began to come back into vogue in the 1990s
after the "Just Say No!" mentality was wearing off. Since then, use and abuse has been on a steady rise, feeding a new surge in the use of heroin as a cheaper alternative. This rise, in the economic centers of both the United $tates and China, is directly linked to capitalism.
While K2 is one dangerous substance plaguing U.$. prisons these days, partly due to its undetectability, opioids are by far the biggest killer in the United $tates, and we expect that is true in prisons as well. Drug overdoses surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United $tates in 2007 and has continued a steady rise ever since. The majority of these overdoses have been from opioids.(2)
While the increase in deaths from opioids has been strong across the United $tates, rates are significantly higher among whites, and even higher among First Nations. One reason that use rates are lower among New Afrikans and [email protected] is that it has been shown that doctors are more reluctant to prescribe opioids to them because they are viewed as more likely to become addicted, and Amerikan doctors see them as having a greater pain threshold.(3)
We did see some evidence of this trend in the results of our survey on the effects of drugs in U.$. prisons. The most popular answer to our question of whether certain groups did more drugs in prison than others was no, it affects everyone. But many clarified that there was a strong racial divide where New Afrikans preferred weed and K2, while whites and usually [email protected] went for heroin and/or meth. Some of these respondents said that New Afrikans did less drugs.(4) A couple said that New Afrikans used to do less drugs but now that's changing as addiction is spreading. In states where K2 has not hit yet (CA, GA, CO) it was common to hear that whites and "hispanics" (or in California, "southern" Mexicans) did more drugs. The pattern of New Afrikans preferring weed and K2 seemed common across the country, and could have implications for strategies combating drug use among New Afrikans compared to other groups. In particular, stressing that K2 is completely different and more dangerous than weed could be part of a harm reduction strategy focused on New Afrikans.
If prison staff were doing their jobs, then we would expect rates of both overdoses and use in general to be lower in prisons. But we know, and our survey confirmed, that this is not the case (78% of respondents mentioned staff being responsible for bringing in at least some of the drugs in their prison). In hindsight, it may have been useful to ask our readers what percentage of prisoners are users and addicts. Some of the estimates that were offered of the numbers using drugs in general were
20-30%, 90%, 75%, and many saying it had its grips on the whole population.
Deaths from opioids in the general U.$. population in 2015 was 10.5 per 100,000, double the rate in 2005.(5) This is higher than the rates in many state prison systems for overdoses from any drug, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania that all reported average rates of 1 per 100,000 from 2001-2012. California was closer at 8 per 100,000 and Maryland exceeded the general population at 17 deaths from overdoses per 100,000 prisoners.(6) At the same time,
prison staff have been known to cover up deaths from overdoses, so those 1 per 100,000 rates may be falsified.
In our survey of ULK readers, we learned that Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, is quite popular in prisons (particularly in the northeast/midwestern states). Survey respondents mentioned it as often as weed as one of the most popular drugs, and more than heroin. Suboxone is actually used to treat heroin addiction. And while it is not supposed to be active like other opioids, it can lead to a high and be addictive. It is relatively safe, and will not generally lead to overdose until you combine it with other substances, which can lead to death.
Prescription drugs are not as common as other drugs in most prisons, according to our survey. Though in some cases they are available. We received a few responses from prisons where prescription drugs prescribed by the medical staff seemed to be the only thing going on the black market. Clearly there is variability by facility.
Two Paths to Recovery
The increases in opioid abuse in the United $tates has been staggering, and they cause a disproportionate amount of the deaths from drug overdoses. About 10% of opioid addicts worldwide are in the United $tates, despite only being less than 5% of the world's population.(7) At the same time, only about 1% of people in the United $tates are abusing opioids.(8) This is not the worst episode in U.$. history, and certainly not in world history.
Around 1914 there were 200,000 heroin addicts in the United $tates, or 2% of the population. In contrast, some numbers for opium addicts in China prior to liberation put the addiction rate as high as 20% of the population around 1900, and 10% by the 1930s. That's not to dismiss the seriousness of the problem in the United $tates, but to highlight the power of proletarian dictatorship, which eliminated drug addiction about 3 years after liberation.
Richard Fortmann did a direct comparison of the United $tates in 1952 (which had 60,000 opioid addicts) and revolutionary China (which started with millions in 1949).(9) Despite being the richest country in the world, unscathed by the war, with an unparalleled health-care system, addicts in the United $tates increased over the following two decades. Whereas China, a horribly poor country coming out of decades of civil war, with 100s of years of opium abuse plaguing its people, had eliminated the problem by 1953.(9) Fortmann pointed to the politics behind the Chinese success:
"If the average drug addiction expert in the United States were shown a description of the treatment modalities used by the Chinese after 1949 in their anti-opium campaign, his/her probable response would be to say that we are already doing these things in the United States, plus much more. And s/he would be right."(9)
About one third of addicts went cold turkey after the revolution, with the more standard detox treatment taking 12 days to complete. How could they be so successful so fast? What the above comparison is missing is what happened in China in the greater social context. The Chinese were a people in the process of liberating themselves, and becoming a new, socialist people. The struggle to give up opium was just one aspect of a nationwide movement to destroy remnants of the oppressive past. Meanwhile the people were being called on and challenged in all sorts of new ways to engage in building the new society. There was so much that was more stimulating than opium to be doing with their time. Wimmin, who took up opium addiction in large numbers after being forced into prostitution in opium dens, were quickly gaining opportunities to engage at all levels of society. The poor, isolated peasants were now organized in collectives, working together to solve all kinds of problems related to food production, biology and social organization. The successful struggle against drug addiction in China was merely one impressive side effect of the revolutionizing of the whole society.
In contrast, in the capitalist countries, despair lurks behind every corner as someone struggles to stay clean. The approach has ranged from criminalization to medicalization of drug addiction as a disease. "Once an addict, always an addict", as they say. Always an individualist approach, ignoring the most important, social causes of the problem. That drug addiction is primarily a social disease was proven by the practice of the Chinese in the early 1950s, but Western "science" largely does not acknowledge the unquestionable results from that massive experiment.
It is also worth pointing out the correlation between drug abuse and addiction, and capitalist economics specifically. Whether it was colonial powers forcing opium on the Chinese masses who had nothing, in order to enslave them to their economic will, or it is modern Amerikan society indulging its alienation in the over-production of prescription pills from big pharmaceutical companies marketing medicine for a profit.
And now, opioid addiction is on the rise again in capitalist China after decades. A steady rise in drug-related arrests in China since 1990 are one indicator of the growing problem.(10) As more profits flowed into the country, so have more drugs, especially since the 1990s. We recently published a review of Is China an Imperialist Country?, where we lamented the loses suffered by the Chinese people since the counter-revolution in 1976. It goes to show that when you imitate the imperialists, and put advancing the productive forces and profits over serving the people, you invite in
all the social ills of imperialism.
In China drug addiction has now become something that people fear. Like it did with its economy, China has followed in the imperialists' footsteps in how it handles drug addiction. Chinese policy has begun treating addicts as patients that need to be cured to protect society. Rather than seeing those who give up drugs as having defeated the oppressor's ways, they are monitored by the state, lose social credibility, and have a hard time getting a job.(11) Under socialism, everyone had a job and no one needed recreational drugs to maintain themselves mentally. The path to combating drug addiction and abuse is well-established. Attempts under imperialism that don't involve liberatory politics of the oppressed have little to no effect.